Monday, April 04, 2016

Keeping Up With Miss Jones

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that, when one part of your life starts going OK, another falls spectacularly to pieces."

Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger)

For some reason the late '90s and the early 2000s were prime years for TV shows and movies about the trials and tribulations of young single women.

Well, perhaps it wasn't quite as extreme as all that, but it is true that, from Calista Flockhart in Ally McBeal to Renee Zellweger in "Bridget Jones's Diary," young single women were hot properties during those years.

Speaking of "Bridget Jones's Diary," which premiered in the United Kingdom (where the story was set) on this day in 2001, film critic Roger Ebert apparently read the book upon which the movie was based. "Glory be, they didn't muck it up," he wrote in his review.

I never read the book, but based on what I saw in the movie, it must have been a fun read.

"As in the book, Bridget arrives at her 32nd birthday determined to take control of her life," wrote Ebert, "which until now has consisted of smoking too much, drinking too much, eating too much and not finding the right man, or indeed much of any man."

That sounds like a recipe for a pretty endearing character — a clearly flawed character but, nevertheless, charmingly so. And, to be honest, Zellweger was perfect for the part. She has such a captivating personality.

And, based on Ebert's description of the Bridget Jones of the book — "a heroine both lovable and human" — I don't have to read it to presume that Zellweger was ideal for the role. I'd like to read it, though. As I said earlier, it sounds like a fun read. Maybe I will read it this summer.

"Zellweger's Bridget is a reminder of the first time we became really aware of her in a movie," wrote Ebert, "in 'Jerry Maguire,' where she was so cute and vulnerable we wanted to tickle and console her at the same time."

Ebert went on to observe that "[a] story like this can't work unless we feel unconditional affection for the heroine, and casting Zellweger achieves that." I agree.

One of my favorite moments in the movie was when Bridget said she felt like a "screen goddess in manner of Grace Kelly" — just before her Kellyesque scarf blew off as she was riding in a convertible — "though perhaps ever so slightly less elegant under pressure."

The rest of the casting seemed pretty solid as well. Hugh Grant is not my favorite actor, but he was the right choice to play Bridget's pompous boss Daniel, who embodied all of the personality quirks that Bridget made a point of stressing in her diary that she wanted to avoid in future relationships.

Bridget worked at a book publishing company, by the way.

I had more of a lukewarm response to Colin Firth, who played an interesting role. He and Bridget had been children together — and he and Daniel had been friends until they had a falling out.

As is so often the case, the heroine of the story fell for the rogue.

But the audience always suspected — as I guess the readers before them did — that Firth's character was really the one for her.

The audience found that out for certain when Bridget discovered that Daniel had been cheating on her. This revelation, by the way, came before the midway point of the movie.

I have to admit that, as a journalist, I was drawn in by the part of the story where Bridget became a TV correspondent. My career has been in print, and print journalists usually look down on TV journalists as not being very, well, journalistic. The prevailing attitude is that TV journalists are more entertainers than journalists — and Bridget certainly seemed that way when she did things like slide down the fire station pole in one of her early broadcast pieces.

But later, when she was dispatched to get an in–depth interview with a British aid worker and the Kurdish freedom fighter, I could relate to her emotions. The aid worker had married the freedom fighter and had been trying for five years to keep him from being returned to his home country where he faced all but certain execution. The decision was to be handed down, and Bridget was sent to cover it.

I could relate to her sense of significance in the world as she went to cover the event. I remember feeling that way when I was assigned to a big story. "Am suddenly hard–headed journalist," she wrote in her diary, "ruthlessly committed to promoting justice and liberty. Nothing can distract me from my dedication to the pursuit of truth."

When she learned that the defendants she had hoped to interview had been spirited away, she feared losing her job, but it turned out that Firth's character had been the defense attorney, and he had instructed the defendants not to give any interviews.

He also arranged to give Bridget an exclusive interview.

And Bridget realized that he loved her just as she was.

That's what we all want, isn't it?